Dozens of Tory MPs are set to rebel against controversial HS2 at a key vote tonight, as a further damning report was released today.
Around 40 Conservative backbencers are due to break ranks with David Cameron over the £50 billion high-speed rail line – but Lichfield MP and former party vice chairman Michael Fabricant said that figure could be as high as 100 if Labour MPs opposed the scheme.
Mr Fabricant, who will join Staffordshire MPs Jeremy Lefroy and Bill Cash in voting against the scheme, said: “If Labour was against it then the rebellion would be a lot bigger than 40.
“The Government whips advised Number 10 that without having Labour support, the legislation wouldn’t get through.
“And I believe very, very clearly from all the consultations that we did that if Labour wasn’t supporting it the legislation wouldn’t go through.
“It’d be double the amount of rebellion that we’ve got now. People are saying, ‘Well, if it’s going to go through anyway why use up our stocks with the whips?’
“So probably only 30 or 40 will rebel, but I can tell you 80 to 100 people have really serious doubts either about the principle of HS2, including its costs, or, as in my case, the implementation of HS2.” It comes as a new report published today by the Institute of Economic Affairs cast further doubt on the economic benefits championed by the Government.
The report, entitled ‘Failure to Transform: High-Speed Rail and the Regeneration Myth’, said similar boasts were made for Britain’s first high-speed line – HS1 in Kent, which cost an estimated £11 billion at today’s prices.
It states the line failed to revive the East Kent economy and some parts of the region have similar rates of unemployment to depressed industrial cities in the North.
The think tank also cast wider doubt on the benefits of faster rail links by citing the case of Doncaster in South Yorkshire.
It argues that Doncaster had ‘enjoyed a fast rail link’ to London for several decades, with its first 125mph ‘high speed train’ service introduced in the late 1970s and electrification of the route completed in 1991. Despite that, the town was ranked 42nd worst out of 318 English boroughs in the 2010 Index of Multiple Deprivation.
Mr Fabricant is among the senior Tories who have tabled amendments in an attempt to block the Government’s plans.
He wants the Coalition to bring forward a cheaper and more environmentally ‘sympathetic’ route and has warned the line as set out in the High Speed Rail Bill is ‘significantly more costly’ than it need be to reduce damage to the environment. The full HS2 line is set to carve a 450-mile swathe through rural Staffordshire from Lichfield to the east of Stafford as it heads to Crewe.